Should your employer brand go into hibernation?
Neil Harrison, head of research and planning, TMP Worldwide
Hibernation seemed like a pretty sound option for the UK working population earlier this month when eight inches of snow descended on the country and, more inconveniently, the transport infrastructure. So, as many reached for the duvet and went to sleep, should UK employers be doing the same with their employer brand and putting it to bed?
Such a thought has been tantamount to heresy over the last few years of a perky domestic economy. Those organisations investing effectively in the definition and articulation of their employer brand have benefited significantly in terms of reduced hiring salary premiums, a broader recruitment universe and enhanced levels of engagement.
After no less than 63 consecutive quarters of uninterrupted growth, GDP is forecast to decline by a chunky 2.9% in 2009. Some organisations are going to the wall, while others are being forced into hasty merger and acquisition activity – and high-profile redundancy announcements no longer have a shock factor.
Given, then, the time, focus and investment required to maintain a robust and aspirational employer brand, should organisations pull up the corporate duvet, hunker down and wait for the green shoots of a distant recovery?
Tempting perhaps, but not a strategy likely to enhance either potentially fragile employee engagement levels or, admittedly reduced, resourcing initiatives.
For an organisation’s existing employee base, this will be a time of concern and anxiety. Water cooler conversations will be focused on if and how an employer is responding to the downturn. People want open, honest and regular communications. Organisations will have to make tough decisions in the current climate. However, the way they go about actioning and communicating such decisions will mark out those that emerge from the current climate with an employer brand strengthened and enhanced, or one shot to pieces.
From an external perspective, strong, marketable individuals are likely to be highly sceptical about moving from employment they currently view as relatively safe and secure. These individuals are unlikely to take a career punt unless they are convinced that the organisation they are considering moving to is communicating strength, ambition and direction – something organisations with their head under the duvet are unlikely to achieve.
The length of the current recession is clearly impossible and unwise to predict. However, what is more predictable is that those organisations emerging from the downturn with their employee base still engaged and motivated, and which have continued to bring on board additional talent, will be better placed to harness the opportunities of a recovery.
With employees’ relationships with their current and prospective employers changed beyond all recognition over the past six months, organisations need to spend more time analysing and articulating their employee value proposition. A future upturn will show distinct contrasts between those organisations awake to the opportunities of their employer brand and those who chose to put it into hibernation.